Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

The following are answers to the frequently asked questions about domestic wastewater treatment systems.

If your query is not answered below and if it relates to a site-specific question then you should contact your local authority in the first instance. Local authorities can contact the EPA for advice and assistance if they have specific technical questions about the wastewater treatment code of practice. If your question is about planning permission then you should contact your local authority, as this is an area that is not dealt with by the EPA.


General Wastewater

What is included in the term domestic wastewater?

Domestic wastewater includes grey water and sewage from domestic dwellings.  Grey water is defined as wastewater that comes from sinks and washing machines, i.e. the wastewater that contains some bleach and detergents.  The grey water from your household is treated in the same way as sewage whereby it is collected in a septic tank and undergoes treatment either in a percolation area or in a secondary treatment unit prior to being discharged via a polishing filter to ground. Rainwater is not classified as grey water and therefore should not be discharged into your wastewater treatment unit.

 

What happens to wastewater from my home?
When houses are not served by a public sewerage system, the wastewater from a house should be treated by a septic tank and percolation area or advanced wastewater treatment system. With new houses the type of system used is determined by testing ground/soil conditions at planning stage.
How should a septic tank wastewater treatment system work?

A modern septic tank system includes a double chamber tank and percolation area. Wastewater is partially digested by bacteria in the septic tank and the effluent then passes through a percolation area where effluent is further treated.

Typical layout of a septic tank and percolation area

Typical layout of a septic tank and percolation area

Typical layout of a septic tank and percolation area

Should ‘grey water’ from dishwashers, sinks and washing machines be directed to my wastewater treatment system?
YES - grey water should in all circumstances be directed to the wastewater treatment system. Grey water is also a pollutant and if directed to the rain water system may cause contamination of waters. Take care with house extensions or alterations – don’t connect any wastewater pipes to the rain water disposal system.
Should water from roofs and yards be connected to my wastewater treatment system?
NO - Roof and yard waters should not be connected to your wastewater treatment system. Clean water should be collected and discharged separately to a local watercourse or soakaway.
How do I dispose of the rainwater and clean surface runoff from my site?
Uncontaminated water should be disposed of by means of a soak pit/soakaway.  The soakaway should be designed in accordance with the guidance provided in BS8301 and in BRE Soakaway Design (1991). It should not be located within 5m of any dwelling and as far away as possible from the percolation area (at least a minimum of 5m separation distances should be used).
How do I know if my wastewater treatment system is not working properly?

Some signs that your wastewater treatment system may not be working include the following:

  • Smell of sewage from the general area of the tank and percolation area.
  • Slow draining toilets, sinks or drains or backing up of sewage at the inlet.
  • Overflow of wastewater from the tank or ponding of sewage on the percolation area.
  • Discolouration of nearby watercourses (greyish slime growths).

Discharge from a defective septic tank

Discharge from a defective septic tank
My house is over 20 years old – how do I know if it is working effectively?
Septic tanks prior to the 1990’s may not be built to current standards and performance should be checked. You should check tank structure, provide access points for maintenance and de-sludging, replace soak-pits and pipes to drains (if present) with a properly designed percolation area or other approved polishing system, exclude roof and yard water from the system.
I have noticed ponding in my garden close to my wastewater treatment system, what should I do?

First of all you should arrange to have your system de-sludged. If it is an advanced wastewater treatment system you should contact the supplier/installer of your system and have your system serviced.

Ponding of sewage effluent

Ponding of Sewage Effluent 
Could my wastewater treatment system pollute my well?

Yes it is possible. If you suspect that your wastewater treatment system is affecting your well you should have it checked.  If you are concerned you should contact your local authority’s Environmental Section or local Environmental Health Officer for advice. 

If you suspect contamination of your well you need to have a full assessment of your wastewater treatment system carried out by a suitably qualified person.

Contamination from soak pit entering the household well

Contamination from soak pit entering the household well 

New Sites or Houses

When buying a house what do I need to do?

Before buying a house you should have the septic tank or wastewater treatment system inspected by a suitability qualified person. You should ask for installation and maintenance records for the system. You should check that the treatment system will adequately serve the anticipated number of occupants of the house.

If the house is served by a DWWTS, the seller of the house should provide you with a copy of the certificate of registration for the domestic waste water treatment system as provided for in Section 70 D of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.

The new homeowner is obliged to inform the local authority of the change of ownership and such that the register can be updated.

I want to extend – can I build over my septic tank system and percolation area?

Under no circumstances should you build over a septic tank or percolation area. Access to the tank is needed for regular maintenance and the percolation area should not be compacted.

Even with a hard standing area located above a percolation area traffic may damage percolation pipes and result in ponding or escape of untreated effluent.

Can I place a car park or driveway over the percolation area or polishing filter?
Roads, driveways or paved areas or any underground services must not be located within the disposal area.  This is due to the need to have easy access to the site for maintenance and also to prevent problems with the system due to the potential for damage to the pipework and compaction of the filter materials.
Are all sites suitable for septic tanks and other individual wastewater treatment systems?
 NO– not all sites are suitable. The following are possible reasons for site unsuitability:
  • A high water table.
  • A slow percolation rate of the soil which would result in ponding on the surface because effluent cannot get away
  • A fast percolation rate of the soil, which would result in effluent moving through the soil too quickly without effective treatment.
  • Site restriction issues i.e., not enough space to achieve the minimum separation distances between the treatment system and domestic wells, watercourses, other houses etc.

The site suitability assessment process will determine the suitability of a site but the ultimate decision will rest with the local authority or planning authority


Maintenance

How do I care for my domestic wastewater treatment system?

You should visually check your system at least annually and note any ponding of effluent, bad smells or discoloration of nearby drains. If you have an advanced treatment system check the electrical components (pump, blower etc) are operational. 

Don’t be tempted to turn off the power to save electricity - If there is no air going to the system it becomes an undersized septic tank and treatment is ineffective. You should also check the distribution box i.e. the manhole between the wastewater treatment system and the percolation area to ensure even distribution of effluent and ensure there are no blockages.

How often do I have to de-sludge the septic tank?

Septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems need to be emptied periodically to remove sludge. This is a legal and practical requirement. If the sludge builds up too much, it may affect treatment and block the system requiring expensive repair or replacement works. The law requires home owners to keep a receipt of de-sludging for five years.

The following table can be used to find out how often you need to empty your septic tank system. This depends on the number of occupants in the home and the tank size. Assume the tank is 2.5m3 if you do not know its size

Desludging table CoP 2021

 Example shown by red arrows:  A 3.5m3 tank for a 3-person house needs de-sludging every 4 years.

Mechanical plants should be emptied as recommended by the manufacturer.

Read more details
Will oils and greases effect my wastewater treatment system?

TGD H of the Building Regulations states that excessive amounts of waste fats, oils and grease (FOGs) should be avoided as they impair the treatment process and require desludging more frequently.

What are grease traps and what do they do?

Grease traps capture the oil and grease from the flow of wastewater by slowing down the flow of hot greasy water through the trap and allowing it to cool.  As it cools, the grease and oil separate out of the water and float to the top of the trap.  The cooler water then flows to the septic tank where it is treated.  Grease traps are usually not included in the design of a domestic wastewater system but are mandatory in systems treating water from restaurants, hotels and any other businesses that supply food.  

 

Can I use a macerator or in-sink disposal unit prior to my wastewater treatment system?

TGD H of the Building Regulations does not recommend the use of household garbage grinders/sink macerators for buildings where waste water treatment systems are used, unless the systems are specifically designed for this.

Will bleach or disinfectants harm the domestic wastewater treatment system?
Normal amounts of household bleach, disinfectants and detergents will not harm the domestic wastewater treatment system.  However, excessive amounts of bleach will temporarily reduce the treatment capacity, as the microorganisms needed to treat the biological waste will be killed off.  In saying this, the system should return to full performance capacity within a short period of time. It is important to be aware of potential effects that excessive use of these chemicals will have on your wastewater treatment system.
Do I really need to renew my maintenance agreements?
Yes.  All on-site wastewater treatment systems require ongoing maintenance to ensure that the system is providing adequate treatment of the wastewater.  An on-going maintenance agreement should be made and renewed with an appropriately qualified person to ensure that your wastewater treatment system is working effectively at all times.
What volume of Septage (includes effluent, sludge and scum) will be arising from domestic waste water treatment systems?

In Ireland, there are approximately 440,000 houses with domestic waste water treatment systems and on the basis of US figures the annual septage volume can be estimated at 0.372 x 109 litres /year or 372,000 m3/year.

Who can take septic tank sludges?

You must use an authorised waste collector only. You can check online with the National Waste Collection Permit Office. Use the quick search function and filter for ‘Septic Tank de-sludging’.

FAQs re CoP

 

Farmers can de-sludge their own system only. They must comply with all legal rules or directions including:

  • Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998;
  • Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 2001; and
  •  European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2010

Farmers can find out about spreading sludge from their own system in this leaflet.

 

What records do I need to keep?

Householders having their septic tanks de-sludged should ensure that they retain a receipt from the permitted waste undertaker who de-sludges the tank. 

The receipt should include the following information: 

  • Name, address and Permit Number of the waste collector.
  • Date of desludging.
  • Quantity removed and destination to where the sludge is to be taken for treatment and disposal/recovery.
Can sludges from septic tanks be landspread?

Farmers can de-sludge their own system only. They must comply with all legal rules or directions including:

  • Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998;
  • Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 2001; and
  • European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2010.

 Farmers can find out about spreading sludge from their own system in this leaflet.


Permitted waste collectors can also dispose of sludge’s by  landspreading  where their Waste Collection Permit allows them to do so strictly in accordance with the requirements of the Waste Management  (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulation, S.I. No. 148/1998, as amended.

Where should the sludge go?

The Permitted Waste collector must ensure that sludges are treated and disposed/recovered in accordance with legislative requirements. 


Septic Tank Flooding

What should I do if my septic tank is flooded?

If possible, the system should not be used until flooding subsides below the level of the tank, but this is more to prevent water backing up into a property than any other reason.

In short, many systems will be robust, they will be recovered and will be usable after a flood.

Where electrical components are used or damage is suspected - then a professional assessment (and repair) is necessary.

There is no significant environmental concern above and beyond that posed by the wider flooding event.

Septic Tanks - What to do after flooding?
  1. Due to the potential for toxic gases in all septic systems, any servicing, cleaning, repairs, internal damage assessments and emptying/pumping must be carried out by trained and experienced specialists.
  2. After the flooding subsides, replace any dislodged manhole covers and check the system for any external signs of damage such as settlement, ponding of waste water, overflowing, blocked drains or not accepting water from the house.
  3. If you suspect damage, or if your system relies on electrical components such as pumps, have the entire system assessed by a professional service engineer.
  4. Ensure that any nearby private wells are checked and disinfected prior to use by following the EPA advice for private well owners on what to do after flooding. 

As always, do not enter flood waters as manholes may have been dislodged and the flood water will be contaminated and may pose a risk to health.


Complaints

I am concerned that my neighbours’ treatment system is contaminating my well. What can be done about this?

In the first instance, you are advised to contact the local authority.  In relation to the concern that the wastewater treatment system is potentially contaminating the well, advice should be sought from the environment section and the local Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

In addition to the above, Section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007  (Water Services Act 2007) sets out the general duties on an owner of a domestic wastewater treatment system.  It provides that the local authority or 'any other person affected by the failure...' may complain to the District Court if there is a failure by the owner of the domestic waste water treatment system (DWWTS) to comply with the general duties set out.  See provisions below in subsection 6 and 7.

“(6) A water services authority or any person affected by a failure, or alleged failure of a third party to comply with a duty of care provided for under this section may complain to the District Court, and the Court may order the third party to take the measures necessary to effect a cessation of the activity which is the subject of the complaint, or to take specified measures to effect compliance with their obligations under this section.

(7) Before a complaint is made to the District Court under subsection (6), the water services authority or the person concerned, as the case may be, shall serve a notice in the prescribed form of the intention to make such a complaint, within such time as may be specified in the notice, on the said third party.”

The Water Services Act was amended in 2012 Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012) and provides additional requirements on the owner of domestic waste water treatment systems (DWWTSs) in terms of performance of their systems.  New regulations (Performance Standards S.I. 223 of 2012) have been published in relation to the operation and maintenance of DWWTS.   

 

There is a problem with my neighbours’ treatment system, which is impacting on my property. What can be done to get this resolved?

In the first instance, you should contact the environment section of the local authority for advice.

However, Section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007 (Water Services Act 2007)  sets out the general duties on an owner of a domestic wastewater treatment system.  It provides that the local authority or ‘any other person affected by the failure…’ may complain to the District Court if there is a failure by the owner of the domestic waste water treatment system (DWWTS) to comply with the general duties set out.  See provisions below in subsection 6 and 7.

“(6) A water services authority or any person affected by a failure, or alleged failure of a third party to comply with a duty of care provided for under this section may complain to the District Court, and the Court may order the third party to take the measures necessary to effect a cessation of the activity which is the subject of the complaint, or to take specified measures to effect compliance with their obligations under this section.

(7) Before a complaint is made to the District Court under subsection (6), the water services authority or the person concerned, as the case may be, shall serve a notice in the prescribed form of the intention to make such a complaint, within such time as may be specified in the notice, on the said third party.”

The Water Services Act was amended in 2012 (Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012)  and provides additional requirements on the owner of domestic waste water treatment systems (DWWTSs) in terms of the performance of their systems.  New regulations (Performance Standards S.I. 223 of 2012) have been published in relation to the operation and maintenance of DWWTS.   

 

What role does the EPA have in relation to checking that a treatment system is suitable and installed properly?
The EPA does not have a role in assessing compliance with planning conditions.  It does however, provide advice to local authorities in relation to wastewater treatment through the publication of guidance manuals and advice where requested. It is the responsibility of the local authority through its planning section to enforce the conditions of planning and the environment section enforces water pollution legislation.

Legal Position

What are my rights in relation to site assessment or wastewater treatment services?
Contact the National Consumer Agency, Telephone Number: 01 402 5500.
What are the legal standards that I must comply with in relation to the installation of a wastewater system for a single house?

Planning applications for new houses must show that the site is suitable for the proposed septic tank system and meets the requirements in:


EPA Guidance and Training Information

What guidance is available from the EPA on installing a treatment system for a single house?

The Code of Practice is the relevant guidance

Where can I get a copy of the Code of Practice?

The Code of Practice is available in full online

Hardcopies can be obtained by contacting the EPA Publications Office, PO Box 3000, Johnstown Castle Estate, Wexford

053-9160600

publications@epa.ie.

How can I apply for the ‘Site Suitability Assessments for On-Site Wastewater Management’ training course?

This course is no longer being run by FAS.  However, you are advised to contact the Water Services Training Group for information on when this course will be run.

 

Water Services Training Group,

Monastery Road, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary
Phone: (0505)24688 | Fax: (0505) 23427 | E-mail: wsntg@eircom.net


Site Characterisation

What is involved in carrying out a Site Characterisation?

Site characterisation involves the characterisation of the ground conditions of the site and then the selection of an appropriate wastewater treatment system. The objective of site characterisation is

  • to determine if the site can adequately treat the wastewater;
  • to check that  the treated wastewater can get away; and
  • to check that the minimum site separation distance can be achieved.

Detail of how to carry out site characterisation can be obtained in the Code of Practice

Where can I find a qualified person to carry out a Site Suitability Assessment as part of a planning application for a single house?

Local authorities are responsible for determining who is qualified to carry out site suitability assessments within their functional area. 

In some cases local authorities have a list of designated persons who may carry out the assessment; these can be found on their websites or by contacting the Planning or Environment Section of the local authority.  In cases where a list is not drawn up then contact the Planning or Environment Sections directly for information on their minimum requirements.

 

What is a percolation test?

A percolation test is a method of assessing the ability of the subsoil to allow water to percolate to the water table (i.e. how water can pass through the soil). In the test a small hole is excavated and the time taken for the water to drop in minutes is recorded. 

This should be completed by an appropriately trained and qualified person. There is further detail in the Code of Practice

Percolation test

Percolation test
What is the minimum recommended distance between two percolation test holes?
Test holes should be located at either side of the proposed percolation area (but not within it), to ensure that the percolation characteristics are assessed across the percolation area.
What is the difference between a subsurface/T and surface/P tests?

Both of these are percolation tests that assess the ability of the subsoil to allow water to percolate to the water table. The main difference is that they are carried out at different levels. A subsurface/T test is used to test the suitability of the subsoil at depths greater than 400mm below the ground level. A surface/P test is carried out at ground level where there are limiting factors such as high water table or shallow rock.

What is the modified test method? When is it to be used?
The modified percolation test is a new test that will reduce the amount of time required to be spent on-site to obtain a percolation test result in areas with low permeability soils/subsoils.  The modified test should be used in the case the initial drop T100 >210 minutes or where the site assessor expects that the result will be above 75.
I have got very different percolation test values from my site – what do I do?
Three percolation test holes are required for all sites.  Where there is a high degree of variability in the subsoil characteristics then additional tests could be carried out.  The results of these tests should be examined in light of the other three test results.  A detailed examination of the subsoil types within the trial hole and the individual test holes should be undertaken to determine the dominant site conditions.  The dominant subsoil type in the test holes and trial hole should be taken, as representative of the site conditions and therefore the percolation test results that equate to that should be used.
What can I do if the subsurface/T test fails?

If a subsurface/T test fails; a surface/P test should be carried out to determine if a shallow system can be installed – see the Code of Practice for more detail and options.

 

How can I tell if I have a high water table?
A high water table can be determined by constructing a trial hole and leaving it open for 48 hours during the site assessment.  The water level should be measured from ground level.
What can I do if I have a high water table?

It may be possible to install a shallow system if there is sufficient depth of unsaturated soil – see the Code of Practice for more detail and options.

Is it permissible to have more than one house sharing a septic tank and well?
This is a matter for the planning authority.
What information can a local authority request in relation to the suitability of a site?

A planning authority is currently entitled to request any information on site suitability for an on-site wastewater disposal system from the applicant that it considers necessary to make a decision on an application for planning permission.  Under Article 22 (2)(c) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2006, where it is proposed to dispose of wastewater other than to a public sewer, the applicant must submit information on the type of on-site wastewater treatment system proposed and evidence as to the suitability of the site for the system proposed as part of the planning application.


Selecting and Designing a System

How can I go about selecting a wastewater treatment system?

Details of the different on-site wastewater treatment systems, both septic tank systems and package treatment systems, can be found in the Code of Practice

How do you determine what type of wastewater treatment system is required for a single house?

Firstly, a suitably qualified person must carry out a site assessment in accordance with the guidance set out in the Code of Practice .  This is then followed by the selection of a suitable wastewater treatment system, which is dependent on the site conditions determined during the site assessment.

The choices of on-site wastewater treatment and disposal systems are;

  • Septic tank systems – septic tank and a properly constructed percolation area
  • Secondary Treatment Systems
  • Tertiary Treatment Systems

It may be required to discharge effluent to surface waters if the percolation tests fail, in which case a discharge licence from your local authority is required.

What is an acceptable housing density?

The Code of Practice sets out minimum separation distances between wastewater treatment systems and vulnerable features including houses, wells and watercourses. However, the planning authority may increase these distances where it is deemed appropriate.

Any potential impact of the proposed system due to the increased pathogen or nutrient loads on the groundwater quality in the area should be assessed in areas of high-density housing. Densities of DWWTS greater than six per hectare in areas of ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ groundwater vulnerability may mean a negative effect on groundwater quality, particularly with respect to levels of E. coli and nitrate (Morrissey et al., 2015). This is of particular importance in areas with high nitrate levels in groundwater, particularly within groundwater bodies at risk of failure to meet limits set out in the WFD classification of groundwater-body chemical status for nitrate. In such cases, more detailed hydrogeological investigations by a specialist qualified person may be required to demonstrate whether the site is suitable for a DWWTS

 

Who certifies the design of Wastewater Treatment Systems?

You will find information on building product control and certification on the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the National Standards Authority of Ireland websites.

Do I need a licence to discharge directly from a wastewater treatment system to surface water or groundwater?

A water pollution discharge licence is required from the local authority

  • If the treated effluent is discharged to surface waters

Or

  • If the quantity of treated wastewater is greater than 5m3/day and is being discharged to groundwater. 
Contact your Local Authority’s Environment Section for more information or to apply for a water pollution licence. Application forms may be downloaded from the local authority’s website. Most local authorities do not allow discharges from a single house to surface waters.

Protection of Wells and Water Courses

How far away from a wastewater treatment system is it safe to locate a well so as to prevent contamination?

Wells should be sited upgradient if possible and as far away as possible from wastewater treatment systems. The minimum recommended distance between a wastewater treatment system and well varies from 15m to 60m depending on the slope and soil type and is set out in the Code of Practice.

 

What are the minimum separation distances to rivers,lakes, etc?

These are set out in the Code of Practice.

 

What is a percolation area?
A percolation area typically consists of a system of sub-surface perforated pipes which allow the liquid waste to be absorbed and filtered by the soil.
Is it possible to disinfect a contaminated well?

To disinfect a well you must:

1.     Obtain 9 litres (2 gallons) of 3% strength or 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of 5% strength e.g. Parazone) bleach. 

2.     Make up to 22.5 litres (5 gallons) by adding water and mix thoroughly. 

3.     If sampling during a pumping test, on the day before the test starts pour half of the solution into the well.

4.     Start the pump and let it run briefly until water with a distinct smell of chlorine pours from the outlet pipe.

5.     Turn off the pump immediately. Add the remainder of the solution and leave overnight.

6.     Pump to waste until the smell of chlorine disappears before taking a sample for analysis. 

If sampling from a well that is connected to a house, pour half of the solution into the well, start the pump and open all taps until water from each tap has a distinct smell of chlorine. Stop the pump and add the rest of the solution. Allow this to stand for 12-24 hours and then pump to waste until the smell of chlorine disappears.       

In addition you should try to determine what is causing the contamination. What activities are taking place within 50m radius of the well?  Is there adequate protection around the top of the well?

For more information on disinfecting wells, see the GSI website.


Septic Tanks, Percolation Areas and other Filter Systems

Is a reserve percolation area required?
The Agency’s CoP does not require a reserve percolation area but requires a rigorous site assessment, correct installation and proper maintenance of the wastewater treatment system. In addition, minimum separation distances must always be achieved.
What is an individual or an advanced wastewater treatment system?

Individual or advanced wastewater treatment systems consist of mechanical aeration or filtration units that enhance the treatment of domestic wastewater. A polishing filter is installed after these systems to allow further treatment of the wastewater. These systems may be suitable in some areas where a septic tank system is not acceptable.  The EPA Code of Practice provides general guidance on the location, design, installation and maintenance of both secondary treatment filter systems and packaged wastewater systems. 

What is a polishing filter?
Polishing filters consist of either soil or sand and are employed to reduce micro-organisms from wastewater. They are used to treat wastewater from intermittent filters, constructed wetlands and packaged treatment systems and to allow for the discharge of treated wastewater to ground. See the Section 10 of the CoP for more information.

What is the difference between a soil polishing filter and a sand polishing filter?

Soil polishing filters comprise in-situ or improved or imported soil, whereas sand polishing filters are comprised of layers of sand.

I want to use a constructed wetland as my wastewater treatment system. What should I do?

A site suitability assessment is required to be completed prior to selecting any system.  If the site is suitable for a constructed wetland then the following should be noted.

Any discharge from a constructed wetland to surface water requires a water pollution discharge licence in accordance with the Water Pollution Acts 1977-1990. Specific information can be obtained from the local authorities.

If discharging from the constructed wetland to ground, a polishing filter will be required.  If the discharge is greater than 5m3/day, then a water pollution discharge licence is required as well as additional prior investigations. 

It should also be noted that constructed wetlands should be inspected weekly to ensure that there is no evidence of varying flow distribution or blockage, that the sidewalls are maintained and that the reeds have not been damaged. See the Code of Practice or contact the Environment Section of your local authority for more information.

Who installs Wastewater Treatment Systems? What are the requirements?
A suitably qualified installer should install on-site wastewater treatment systems; this includes septic tank systems, secondary treatment: systems constructed on-site and secondary treatment: packaged systems.  The secondary treatment systems are required to be followed by polishing filters.  Usually, the manufacturer will recommend a person who is suitable to install the system or may install it themselves.  This person is then responsible for the testing of the system after installation, to ensure that it is working effectively. In all cases the installation of the on-site wastewater treatment system should be certified.  Contact the local authority for more details as to their specific requirements.
Can I have trench widths greater than 500mm in my percolation area?
 The recommended trench width is 500mm.  The percolation trench lengths given in Section 7 of the Agency’s CoP is dependant on this trench width of 500mm.

What are the key installation requirements for SOIL filters?

This is set out in the Code of Practice

What are the key installation requirements for SAND filters?

 This is set out in the Code of Practice

Who supplies sand filters in Ireland?

We do not have a list of suppliers for the materials used in the construction of sand filters but refer to the specifications in the Code of Practice. 


Legislation

Why has legislation on domestic wastewater treatment systems been changed?

The European Court of Justice has ruled that countries must comply with certain standards and procedures, such as inspections, to ensure that public health and the environment are protected.

Poorly constructed or operated on-site wastewater treatment systems (including septic tanks) for single houses can result in sewage contaminating drinking water supplies or ponding on land, presenting a risk to human health as well as the environment.

Who has to register under the domestic wastewater treatment systems legislation?

All homeowners that have domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTS) are required to register their systems with the local authority where the DWWTS are located.

 

However, owners of properties connected to larger on-site systems where the discharge is in excess of 5 cubic metres per day do not need to register (i.e sports clubs, pubs, hotels, guesthouses and other businesses).  Instead such systems may require a licence from the relevant local authority under Section 4 of the Water Pollution Act 1997. 

 

To register please go to www.protectourwater.ie

 

If my house shares a domestic waste water treatment system with one or more houses, who is required to register?

In the situation where more than one house shares a domestic waste water treatment system, each individual household must register.

How do I register and with whom?

Owners of domestic waste water treatment systems are required to register their systems with their water services authority.  They can register online, by post or at your local authority office.

Online - www.protectourwater.ie - by credit card/debit card.

By Post:Registration forms are available online; from City/County Councils; Libraries; Citizen Information Centres or Lo Call 1890 800 800.

Payment can be made by cheque, postal order or bank draft and made payable to “Protect Our Water". Send your form with payment to: Protect Our Water, P.O Box 12204, Dublin 7.

Local Authority Offices:Payment by credit or debit card or by cheque, postal order, bank draft or cash can be made in your City or County Council office (no administration fee will be charged by the Council for this).

Do I have to pay anything to register?

A once off registration fee of €50.00 is payable to cover the costs of administration by the WSA and of the risk based inspection.

Having registered and paid my fee, is my septic tank going to be inspected?

The legislation requires the EPA to develop a ‘National Inspection Plan’.   A risk based approach is beiing used to select sites for inspection.  What that means is that the areas at most risk of contamination of groundwater, surface water or human health are more likely to be inspected first.  The risk maps are available to view at http://gis.epa.ie/myenvironment#/search.

 

What will happen if I don’t register or pay?
A person who fails to produce a valid certificate of registration commits an offence and can be fined.
Is there a deadline for registration?

All existing DWWTS should have registered by the 1st February 2013, if you have not registered already you may still do so, see www.protectourwater.ie for more information.

All new developments where a DWWTS is constructed or installed shall ensure that the system is registered with the WSA within 90 days of connection of the premises to the DWWTS (S.I. 180 of 2013).

If my septic tank is to be inspected who will carry out the inspection?

An appropriately qualified and EPA registered inspector. A list of authorised inspectors will be made available in due course. The local authority will inform you in advance if you have been selected for inspection. Inspections are due to commence in July 2013.

What will the inspector be looking for?
The inspector will carry out a visual inspection of the domestic wastewater treatment system. They will be checking to see that the system is being operated and maintained properly and is not posing a risk to human health or the environment.
Do I have to be there when the inspection is being carried out?

No access to the house itself will be required. The local authority will advise you of the inspection in advance.

Will I know if my septic tank has been inspected?
The inspector will be required to inform you of the findings of their inspection.
What happens if the inspection shows that there is a problem with my septic tank?
You are required to maintain and operate your septic tank or domestic wastewater treatment system in a manner that does not cause a risk to human health or the environment. If problems are found during the inspection the local authority may require you to carry out specific improvements to your system. 
If improvement works are required, who will pay?

Check out this EPA webpage about septic tank grants

How do I become an inspector?

The Minister has made regulations regarding the appointment of inspectors (S.I. No. 384 of 2012).  The regulations state tha the EPA shall appoint a person to inspect DWWTS if:

  • the applicant has attained a qualification at level 8 in the National Framework of Qualifications or equivalent, such qualification to be in construction, engineering or science disciplines, or, where such qualification is not attained, the Agency, having considered the qualifications and professional experience of the person by reference to the functions to be performed by an inspector for the purposes of the Act is satisfied that the person is suitably competent for appointment as an inspector, and
  • it is satisfied that the applicant has successfully completed a training course provided by the Local Authority Services National Training Group in relation to the inspection of domestic waste water treatment systems,
  • the applicant is indemnified by the relevant water services authority in accordance with Section 29 of the Act.
What are the performance standards that septic tanks and domestic wastewater treatment systems have to meet?

The Minister has published new regulations (Performance Standards S.I. No 223 of 2012) governing the operation and maintenance for domestic wastewater treatment systems.   

What role does the EPA Code of Practice have to play in relation to existing houses?

The standards in the Code of Practice apply to all new developments. They do not strictly apply to existing houses, however, where problems arise improvements may be necessary in line with best practice as outlined in the Code. The local authority may allow variations to the Code when it is satisfied that the proposed improvements will reduce the impact on human health and the environment.

 

Do I have to register my domestic waste water treatment system (DWWTS) if the discharge is subject to a discharge licence under the Water Pollution Acts?

All homeowners that have domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTS) are required to register their systems with the local authority where the DWWTS are located.

However, owners of properties connected to larger on-site systems where the discharge is in excess of 5 cubic metres per day do not need to register (i.e sports clubs, pubs, hotels, guesthouses and other businesses).  Instead such systems require a licence from the relevant local authority under Section 4 of the Water Pollution Act 1997.